Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson: A Real Jokester?

The Beach Boys sign autographs and answer questions on Twitter from Los Angeles on 9/18.

If somebody would have told me 30 years ago that there would be this thing called the internet, and on it would live this other thing called social media, where people could communicate instantly with masses around the world … well, that’s right up there with believing in space aliens and moderate Republicans.

Social media has taken away any sort of false modesty about the world and installed a big, widescreen picture window in our lives. Through that window we can see a topless princess, a starlet’s sweet ass or a football player’s weenie. And if we want to draw a curtain over that picture window to hide something from the world, well, sometimes it’s not so easy.

Which has nothing at all to do with why we’re here today, and that’s to talk about the Beach Boys and Twitter. Think about it – the Beach Boys’ best tunes are like musical tweets from the past, a glimpse into a long-lost world of surf, sand, sun, hot rods and bikinis, all in 140 characters or less.

Certainly you know the Beach Boys – a legacy-rich lineup of Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and David Marks – are touring to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. You probably knew they wrap up this tour next week with two dates in London, then the Mike Love/Bruce Johnston Beach Boys hit the road again in the States. You might have caught them on the road, or even have heard their all-new studio album That’s Why God Made The Radio.

And you probably heard they’re about to release yet another greatest hits set, 50 Big Ones, coming out Oct. 9. Which explains why the Beach Boys found themselves in a room yesterday (Sept. 18) talking to fans over Twitter.

There were a few good questions, and a lot of goofy ones. One Tweeter asked Brian Wilson, “What is your favorite track on Smile?” Wilson (or someone) answered, “Heroes and Villains.”

The Beach Boys sing the national anthem on Opening Day for the Los Angeles Dodgers in April.

Another question elicited more than a single response: “What is your favorite Beach Boy (sic) song or album?” Bruce replied, “Warmth of the Sun and Sunflower.” Marks said “Surfin’ USA for album and hard to say fav song. Probably God Only Knows.” Love chimed in with “Good Vibrations for Song and our live album in Sacramento, CA. It was the excitement that was so great!”

Wilson, who is credited with creating much of the Beach Boys’ music, had an interesting answer: “California Girls for song and 15 Big Ones for album!” Interesting because 15 Big Ones (1976) was the first album that Wilson produced for the Beach Boys since Pet Sounds, 10 years earlier. After doing that 1960s classic,  Wilson had a breakdown caused by mental illness and a lot of drugs and spent the next decade in a haze.

And Wilson wrote or co-wrote only four of the album’s 15 tracks, which were mostly oldies (Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” was a Top 5 hit). So, an intriguing answer – or maybe a joke?

The reason I say that is because of another Tweet: “Brian, if you could go back and remake one album, which one would it be?” (Full disclosure: that one came from me.) And Brian’s answer? “Endless Summer. I think it could have been better.”

Endless Summer? That 1974 album was a greatest hits set, a collection of singles from the period before Pet Sounds. Even though the original double LP didn’t contain the group’s biggest hit single (“Good Vibrations,” from 1967) it did monster business back in the day. Wilson did oversee the compilation at the time, but you wonder – why would he want to go back and re-do a collection of singles?

As I said, maybe he’s just pulling my leg. Or maybe that damn Mike Love slipped in and answered when nobody was looking!

No matter; this version of the Beach Boys is about to fade away into history, maybe never to return. “Summer’s Gone,” as the final song on the new album says. Thanks Boys – it sure was fun, fun, fun.

You can read a transcript of the entire Beach Boys Twitter exchange here.

The Beach Boys official web site

YouTube: “Good Vibrations” live in NYC, 5/8/12

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